How to Pass the Written CDL Test


Drivers of buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles need to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). In addition to a driving test, the requirements for obtaining a CDL include a written test. The test has material that does not appear on the licensing test for noncommercial vehicles. Accordingly, preparing for and passing the written CDL test requires additional study and time. Test takers should use as many available resources as possible to pass the written CDL test. They can then pass the first hurdle to a rewarding career as a commercial driver.

  • Visit the local government office that issues driver's licenses. Most states have a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for licensing. Your state might use a different name, but it is usually the same office where you get your automobile driver's license. Pick up a copy of the manual or handbook for the written CDL test. Make sure that you get all the materials for the test that you will take. States often have different classes of CDL licenses and different tests for each class of license.

  • Use the CDL manual to determine which tests you must take. For example, a tester in Massachusetts who wants a license to include a hazardous-materials (HAZMAT) endorsement must take the HAZMAT portion of the CDL test. Endorsements give commercial drivers authority to operate different kinds of vehicles or transport certain passengers or materials.

  • Study the relevant portions of the CDL manual for each individual part of your CDL test. However, you should study the entire manual if you have time. Your opportunities to obtain work may depend on obtaining special endorsements on your CDL license. Taking and passing all the tests will ensure that you have the proper endorsements when applying for a job as a commercial driver.

  • Supplement your study of the official state CDL manual with a commercial CDL course. Use this manual to find out the most common questions asked on the test. The course also gives test-taking tips for the CDL exam.

  • Take free online CDL practice tests. Take these tests to familiarize yourself with the types of questions on the CDL exam. These subject-based tests allow you to assess your strong and weak points. For example, you may be strong on the HAZMAT test but weak on the air-brakes test. Go back and review the portions of the manual or course that cover the most difficult material.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also try to find an online copy of the CDL handbook with the state's DMV or equivalent website for licensing. For example, Texas provides access to its CDL handbook online.
  • Do a final review no more than several days before you schedule the test. Do not cram at the last minute. Start studying at least a few weeks in advance. Use the last few days just to brush up on the material.

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